After a disappointing experience at OliO Pizza de Piu, I decided that I needed to find my new Una Pizza Napoletana, and this time, I went somewhere with a proven record of delicious pizza – Keste. This West Village favorite whose name means “This is it” in the traditional Neapolitan dialect has been the winner of numerous pizza-related awards, including One of America’s 10 Best Pizza Parlors, #6 on TimeOut New York’s 10 Best Things to Eat and Drink in New York, and #1 on NYMag’s list of New York’s Top 20 Pies. So maybe I’m a little late to the game – but who cares!
When I arrived, lugging several shopping bags from a long day of Halloween preparations and a visit to Strand bookstore, I was shocked to see the long line outside. It was only about 7 pm, and even at Una Pizza Napoletana and OliO, there were no lines to get in. However, as I’ve come to read since then, there are always people waiting in line outside of Keste. Given that I was just looking for a table for 1, the wait didn’t end up being unbearably long, and I was able to “suffer through it” with a few samples of frozen yogurt from Yogurtland next door (FYI – their pumpkin pie flavor is stellar) and a sample of some delicious pizza fresh out of the oven topped with what appeared to be olives and eggplant.
After finally getting past the door and shown to my table, I was a little underwhelmed by the décor. It wasn’t contemporary New York, it wasn’t traditional Italian, it wasn’t rustic countryside – it was just very plain. And the space itself is very small, hence the long line outside. Anytime anyone wants to get up or be seated, tables and chairs have to be moved, and it’s impossible not to eavesdrop on your neighbors (which proved to be highly entertaining, since the woman next to me looked like Joan Collins circa Dynasty, but on steroids).
It should not be surprising that I went with the Regina Margherita pizza, which is their version of margherita with fresh buffalo mozzarella as opposed to plain mozzarella – this is the standard by which I am comparing the various Neapolitan pizza parlors I’m visiting.
Unlike OliO, the service here is impeccable – the servers were very attentive, I was given water immediately, and everyone was very pleasant. The sample they gave everyone outside was also a nice touch – it’s great to see that a restaurant that has received such glowing reviews hasn’t let it go to their head.
I sat at my little table and enjoyed a book while I waited for my pizza, maybe for about 10 minutes. I was incredibly hungry after my long day of shopping and walking, so I was about ready to pounce when it was delivered to my table. The pizza looked just perfect, but I must say, the flavor wasn’t as out-of-this-world as I had expected. The crust wasn’t quiet charred enough and, like at OliO, I still had to add salt to bring out the vibrancy of the tomato sauce. However, it was much more “wet,” which I appreciated, and it also had more mozzarella than the pizza at OliO. I gobbled up the entire thing, though I left the edges of the crust behind. This is pretty standard for me, and it’s usually done from a calorie-cutting perspective. When the server came to take my plate away though, he seemed genuinely worried that I didn’t enjoy the pizza – he asked me if there was something wrong with the crust and if I’d like something else. I explained to him that it was very good, but that I was full already.
In the end. Keste has come out victorious in the battle of the Neapolitan margherita pizza. However, it still doesn’t compare to the delicious pizzas I used to enjoy at Una Pizza Napoletana. So the search will continue, and I will have to add more contenders in this epic pizza war. Stay tuned – though I can’t promise part 3 will come anytime soon, as I need to detox from pizza…and because dinner a la SeamlessWeb has become a pretty standard fixture in my life.